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Native American History of Bartow County, Georgia
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Bartow County located in northwest Georgia. It is part of the Atlanta Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA.) Its county seat is Cartersville. Bartow is named after Colonial Francis S. Bartow, a Confederate officer who was killed in the First Battle of Manassas. Prior to the Civil War, it was named Cass County in honor of General Lewis Cass of Michigan, Secretary of War under President Jackson, Minister to France and Secretary of State under President Buchannan. Cass played a major role in the removal of Cherokee Indians from northwestern Georgia. Most of the buildings in Cassville, the county’s original county seat, were burned in the autumn of 1864 as retaliation for a Confederate cavalry raid on the Union supply lines. The town was never rebuilt, while the county seat was moved to Cartersville.
Bartow County is bordered on the north by Gordon County and the east by Cherokee County. Cobb County adjoins Bartow on the southeast side. Gordon County adjoins Bartow on its western side. Paulding County forms its southern boundary. Polk County forms Bartow’s southwestern boundary, while Floyd County adjoins Pickens on the western side. Pickens County forms a relatively short section of Bartow County’s northeast boundary.
Bartow County is the location of the Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark, one of the most important archaeological sites in the United States. It was an early center of advanced Native American culture. Bartow also contains dozens of other Native American archaeological sites that are dispersed throughout the county. At one time, there were at least 28 Indian mounds in Bartow. Bartow was the location of some of the earliest permanent agricultural settlements north of Mexico.
Bartow County is also noted for the Cherokee phase of its Native American occupation, beginning in 1776. James Adair and his Chickasaw wife established a community in the northern edge of the county at the beginning of the Revolution. After Cherokee refugees arrived from Tennessee, it became one of the more important centers of the Cherokee renaissance.
Other famous Cherokee leaders originally associated with the Pine Log and Oothcalooga Communities of what was to become Bartow County include Sequoyah, Principal Chief Charles Hicks, Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, and Confederate General Stand Wattie.
Bartow County is located in the Great Appalachian Valley and Pine Log Mountains geological regions. The Great Appalachian Valley is part of the Ridge and Valley geological province, which contains multiple strata of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks deposited when eastern North America was flooded by the ancient Iapetus Ocean. Dolomitic limestone, limestone, sandstone, mudstone and shale are the dominant rock formations of the county. Caves are common in the county. On the northwestern end of the county are deposits of flint, chert and jasper, which were mined for thousands of years by Native Americans. The jasper deposits consist of bands with a wide range of colors.
The Pine Log Mountains are the result of an ancient geological boundary known as the Cartersville Fault. They consist of small to medium height peaks reaching up to about 2,300 feet above sea level. Extremely ancient rocks were pushed up through the fault when a section of a continental plate that was part of Africa collided with the North American plate. That section of the North American plate was originally covered with sedentary rocks like the remainder of the county.
The Pine Log Mountains contain many minerals and semi-precious stones. In the late 1800s and early 1900s iron ore was mined commercially in northeastern Bartow County. A narrow gauge railroad hauled the ore to the main tracks of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Ocher and aluminum ore are still mined commercially in the county.
There were once large permanent or seasonal wetlands paralleling the Etowah River and streams that flow into it. Many were drained in the late 20th century to allow for the expansion of Cartersville. The Etowah River still has some swamps and seasonal wetlands along its much broad flood plain. The top soils are thin over most hills and steep slopes, while within the Etowah River Basin, they can be very deep and fertile.
The soils in the flood plains are a mixture of the minerals of three geological regions, the Pine Log Mountains, the Great Valley and the Piedmont. Pumpkinvine Creek brings alluvial material from Cobb County to the south, which is in the Piedmont. The mixture of minerals created an ideal nutritional situation for farmers. The high iron content of soils, washed down from the Pine Log Mountains helped replace the iron deficiency that was caused by a switch from animal protein to plant protein by the Native inhabitants of Bartow.
Until the construction of Lake Allatoona Dam, immediately east of Bartow County, the Etowah regularly flooded and deposited layers of loam on the landscape. As much as 15 feet of loam covers sections of the original townscape of Etalwa, the Creek name of the Etowah Mound site.
Bartow County was on the boundary of the old Cotton Line, which marked the northern limit of cotton species grown before the Civil War. There are a line of antebellum plantations along the Lower Etowah River, northwest of Cartersville. After the Civil War varieties of cotton were introduced with shorter growing seasons. After their introduction, much of the countryside was covered in cotton fields. Cotton cultivation continued until the late 1970s in the Pine Log community of northeastern Bartow. Some cotton is still grown in the county.
The Etowah River is the only river in the county. It flows from the county’s southeastern corner, across its midsection to its northwestern corner. The Etowah is a tributary of the Coosa River, which eventually becomes the Alabama River and then, the Mobile River, before flowing into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. All of the county’s surface drainage goes into the Etowah River.
Etowah is the Anglicization of the Creek word “Etalwa” which means “large town.” That word is derived from the Itsa-te Creek and Itza Maya word e-tula, which also means “large town.”
Bartow County contained numerous creeks that generally flow fast and clear. However, those near the Etowah River formerly had wide flood plains and seasonal wetlands. As late as 2000, it was common for hundreds of acres of land in the county to be covered in water during the early spring. Between 2000 and 2007 more drainage canals were dug which have reduced seasonal flooding. Major streams in the county include: Pumpkinvine, Petit, Euharlee, Pine Log, Raccoon, Boston, Connesena, Dykes, Pyle, Salacoa, Spring, Sugar Hill, Stiles, Toms, Ward, Two Run, Stamp and Oothcalooga Creeks. The creeks flowing through the Pine Log Mountains are designated trout streams.
Virtually all persons assume that Oothcalooga is a Cherokee word. It is not. It is a Apalachicola-Creek word. Oothcalooga, Florida was visited by botanist William Bartram in 1776.
Bartow County contains one of the United States and Georgia’s most important concentrations of Native American archaeological sites. Artifacts have been discovered that reach back perhaps 12,000 years or longer. Extensive examples of all Native American cultural periods are represented in the archaeological discoveries made in the county.
The earliest residents of the county may have been ancestors of the Yuchi or perhaps, Southern Siouans. The ancestors of the Creeks did not arrive in the region until approximately 400 BC. When visited by the Hernando de Soto Expedition in 1540, the region was occupied by the Kusa, ancestors of the Upper Creek Indians. French maps show the Conchakee Creeks or Apalachicola occupying the Etowah River Basin until around 1764. The first Cherokees arrived in Bartow County in 1776. They were the wives and children of white men, who were trying to avoid being caught in the middle of a bloody war between the Cherokees and American Patriots. At that time, however, most of northern Georgia officially belonged to the Upper Creeks, descendants of the Kusa.
Numerous texts and even a historical marker describe a Battle of Taliwa in 1755 that was supposedly fought along the Etowah River near the Cherokee-Bartow County line. These texts go on to state that the Cherokees won all of northern Georgia in this battle. The story first appeared in the 1820s when attorneys for the Cherokees were trying to stop forced re-location to the Indian Territory. An exhaustive study of colonial archives in 2008 by the History Department of the University of Oklahoma could find no mention of the Battle of Taliwa or treaty with the British at that time that gave the Cherokees all of North Georgia. An official map of the British Army produced in 1780 showed all of Georgia west of Brasstown Bald Mountain and south of the Nacoochee Valley being occupied by branches of the Creek Confederacy.
In fact, the Cherokees lost a series of devastating battles to the Koweta and Upper Creeks during1754 and 1755. Their towns and villages in Georgia, southeastern Tennessee and even a section of the Hiwassee Valley in North Carolina were burned. The Koweta Creeks reclaimed the territory that had been theirs before 1715. The Cherokees were forced to sue for a peace that ended a 40 year long war.
A very small, isolated Cherokee village was located on Long Swamp Creek at its confluence with the Etowah River in nearby Pickens County at the close of the American Revolution, but most Cherokees did not arrive in the region until the 1780s and 1790s. The Creek village of Euharlee on the Etowah River, northwest of Cartersville was occupied throughout the period up to 1838, when most Cherokees were removed from northwest Georgia.
Archaeologists believe that humans have lived in Bartow County for at least 12,000 years, perhaps much longer. Clovis and Folsom points, associated with Late Ice age big game hunters have been found in the Etowah River Valley. Many fossils from the Late Ice Age were found in a cave within Ladds Mountain in Cartersville, GA.
During the Ice Age, herds of giant mammals roamed the river bottom lands. The mastodons, saber tooth tigers, giant sloths and other massive mammals died out about 8,000 years ago. The ethnic identity of the Clovis Culture hunters is not known. They were long presumed to be American Indians, but recent research by anthropologists have revealed many similarities with the big game hunters of Western Europe. An ice cap on the North Atlantic Ocean may have permitted early humans to move back and forth between continents by paddling, while gaining sustenance from hunting sea mammals and fishing.
After the climate warmed, animals and plants typical of today soon predominated in this region. Humans adapted to the changes and gradually became more sophisticated. They adopted seasonal migratory patterns that maximized access to food resources. Archaic hunters probably moved to locations along major rivers during the winter, where they could eat fish and fresh water mussels, if game was not plentiful. During the remainder of the year, smaller streams would have been desirable camp sites.
Bartow County was an ideal location for bands of hunters and gatherers. The county’s network of creeks plateaus, ravines and mountains provided a diverse ecological environment for game animals and edible plants. Native Americans learned to set massive brush fires in the late autumn which cleared the landscape of shrubs and created natural pastures for deer and elk. Woodland bison probably also roamed this region until around 1740.
During the late Archaic Period, several trade routes developed in this region that interconnected the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes. Native Americans began traveling long distances to trade and socialize. There was an important north-south trail that paralleled the Etowah River from its confluence with the Oostanaula, 160 miles to its headwaters on a mountain near Dahlonega, GA. This trail continued through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Little Tennessee River in the Great Smoky Mountains. In the opposite direction the Coosa River Trail continued all the way to the Gulf Coast. Another trail paralleled the Pine Log Mountains, which connected the Etowah River with the Tennessee River and Smoky Mountains.
The Etowah, Chattahoochee and Flint River Valleys were locations of some of the earliest permanent villages in North America. A sedentary lifestyle was made possible by abundant natural food sources such as game, freshwater mussels and chestnuts and the cultivation of gardens. Agriculture came very early here. Initially, the cultivated plants were of indigenous origin and included a native squash, native sweet potato, sunflowers, Jerusalem artichoke, amaranth, sumpweed, and chenopodium.
The early villages were relatively small and dispersed. There was probably much socialization among these villages because of the need to find spouses that were not closely related. Houses were round and built out of saplings, river cane and thatch.
The Woodland Period peoples of the region built some small mounds, but most have disappeared due to intentional destruction, natural erosion and agriculture. Apparently, most mounds were primarily for burials, but may have also supported simple structures that were used for rituals or meetings. They were constructed accretionally. This means that the mounds grew in size over the generations by piling soil and detritus from the village over recent burials.
One of the oldest and largest truncated pyramidal platform mounds was constructed from around 0 AD to 600 AD at the Leakes town site on the Etowah River two miles west of Etowah Mounds. There was also a concentration of Woodland Period villages and mounds in the Pine Log community in the northeast part of the county. A “royal burial” was discovered in a cave near a mound in Pine Log during the 1930s. Its location has been lost.
Smaller villages associated with Late Woodland Period have been found in several locations in Bartow County. The sites are associated with Napier and Woodstock Phase ceramics.
Muskogeans carried with them advanced cultural traditions from Mexico and the Lower Mississippi Valley. The early Muskogeans eventually formed provinces that were governed by large towns. Prior to arrival of Europeans, there were no Indian “tribes.” The large towns were usually located in the bottomlands on major rivers such as the Etowah, Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee Rivers. Smaller villages located near creeks.
Native Americans concentrated in what is now Bartow County, both in the regional center of Etalwa and perhaps two dozen satellite villages. Several of the satellite towns had at least one mound, where a regional administrator lived. These regional administrative centers were called talula’s by the Itsate Creeks. The annual flooding of the Etowah River and tributaries fertilized the soils, in the same manner as the Nile River in Egypt.
Throughout the Southeast, many provinces began to share common artistic symbols and agricultural lifestyles. Societies became more organized politically with elite families, non-agricultural specialists and local leaders. This era is known as the Southern Ceremonial Cult Period, Mississippian Period or Hierarchal Period. The “Mississippian” label came from a conference at Harvard University in 1947 which adopted the inaccurate belief that all advanced Native American culture originated north of the Mason-Dixon Line along the Mississippi River. Villages located in Bartow County would have been affected by the cultural influence of the regional center of Etalwa (Etowah Mounds) on the Etowah River.
It is currently believed by archaeologists that Etalwa was first settled on a horseshoe bend in the Etowah River around 990 AD. The first phase of occupation was a medium sized town that only constructed a few, low mounds. Etalwa was temporarily abandoned around 1200 AD. This abandonment seems to have coincided with a massive flood that cut through the horseshoe bend.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the town was resettled about 50 years later. However, it is also possible that the occupants never left the site, but their homes have not been found. During the second phase of occupation, the former location of the horseshoe bend in the Etowah River became a fortified moat. The population exploded and construction accelerated on what was to become one of the nation’s largest mounds. A major expansion of Mound A was in progress, when the entire town was suddenly abandoned about 1375 AD. There is extensive evidence that Etalwa was sacked by an enemy.
Etalwa was reoccupied about 25 years later by an ethnic group associated with Kusa, the capital town located 45 miles to the north, where Carters Lake is now situated. The town plan changed and new mounds were constructed on a different axis than the original town. The fortifications from the middle occupation were repaired, but the town did not apparently grow to as large a population.
There is evidence that European diseases began affecting coastal populations as early as 1500 AD Native American traders carried the microbes northward from Cuba and then into the lowlands near the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast. Shortly after the Hernando de Soto Expedition passed through Georgia in 1540, waves of European diseases began to decimate the Native American population. De Soto stayed in Kusa for six weeks in late July and August of 1540; and probably passed directly through Bartow County on his way to Alabama. The indigenous people of Bartow County would have been immediately exposed to deadly pathogens, since their towns and villages were satellites of Kusa. Anthropologists currently believe that the indigenous population of Georgia dropped about 95% between 1500 and 1700 AD. Etowah Mounds was abandoned around 1585 AD.
Agricultural advancements: Almost immediately after Spanish missions were established on the coast of Georgia in the late 1500s, the ancestors of the Creeks were growing European fruits and vegetables in addition to their traditional crops. A Spanish expedition in 1600 observed peaches, pears and melons being grown in a village on the Ocmulgee River. By the 1700s, Creeks and their Kataapa allies in northern Georgia were also raising European livestock. Chickens and hogs were the first European animals acquired to supplement their turkey flocks and Mexican meat dogs. By the late 1700s, most Georgia Creek men owned horses and had become skilled herders of cattle, horses and hogs.
Creek Confederacy: The Creek Confederacy of “People of One Fire” was a political alliance formed by the remnants of many advanced indigenous provinces in the Lower Southeast. This alliance probably developed during the late 1600s. The member towns represented several ethnic groups, but the Muskogees and Itsati’s (Hitchitis) dominated the alliance. Muskogee was selected as the parliamentary language of the alliance. When British settlers first settled the coast of Georgia, Itsati was spoken by most Georgia Creeks. By 1800, a composite Muskogee language had became the spoken tongue of Creek citizens.
In 1730 the Natchez survivors of a war with the French fled eastward. Half were given sanctuary by the Upper Creeks on Pine Log Creek in northeastern Bartow County. The other half were given sanctuary by the Cherokees on Pine Log Creek in Cherokee County, NC. The English name “Pine Log” is the result of an inaccurate dictionary being used by early missionaries to the Cherokees. They translated the Cherokee word for Natchez as “pine” or “pine log” because they didn’t realize that the people in these villages were Natchez.
During the 1780s, Cherokee refugees arrived at the Georgia Pine Log, changing its character from Natchez-Creek to Natchez-Cherokee. Pine Log, GA eventually became associated with the Cherokee Bird Clan.
In 1776 a party of white Indian traders with Chickasaw or Cherokee wives and mixed heritage children settled along Talking Rock and Scarecorn Creeks in present day Bartow County, plus Pine Log and Oothcalooga Creeks in present day Bartow County. The leader of the settlement party in northern Bartow County was James Adair, the famous Indian trader and author. On the eve of the Revolution, he had published a comprehensive book on the North American Indians. His wife was Chickasaw. Thus, while his sons are called mixed blood Cherokees in all history books, they were actually one half Chickasaw. Some of Adair’s descendants still live in Bartow County. The town of Adairsville is named after him.
During the terrible days of 1776, the Cherokees, without warning had attacked white and non-Cherokee Indian settlements in the Carolinas. Angry Patriot militias were killing any Cherokee they found. Cherokee refugees from North Carolina soon began filtering into the Georgia Mountains after a counter attack by the Carolina and Virginia militias destroyed most of the Lower and Middle Cherokee villages. Apparently most of the Cherokees initially concentrated near where the white men were developing farms and building grist mills.
The main body of Cherokee hostiles surrendered to the Americans, and renounced their alliance with Great Britain in 1777. However, the Overhills Cherokee faction led by Dragging Canoe refused to surrender, and ignored orders from the tribal leaders to cease hostilities. He moved his renegade band to a Chickasaw village named Chickamauga that was located on the Tennessee River near the northwestern tip of Georgia. Chickamauga is probably derived from the Chickasaw words chika mauka, which mean “place to look out.” Many texts state that they are Creek words meaning “bloody water,” but this is incorrect.
More and more Cherokees settled in and around Chickamauga. Hostile Cherokee villages were established in northwest Georgia mountain valleys that relocated each year to avoid detection The Chickasaws became a minority and the Chickamaugas became known to history as Cherokees. As more and more whites settled in Tennessee, the tide of the guerilla warfare turned in favor of the United States. Undisciplined militia units attacked any Cherokee farmstead or village encountered – even those which were on amicable terms with the United States. Many neutral Cherokees were forced out of Tennessee into northwest Georgia and northeastern Alabama. This is how the Cherokees came to live in northwestern Georgia.
In 1793, the Creek Nation was shocked to learn that the Federal government had given away some of its most sacred territory, the Etowah River Valley down to the middle of what is now Paulding and Cobb Counties to the Cherokees. The Principal Chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation is still called Etalwamikko . . . King of Etowah. The remainder of northwest Georgia was taken from the Upper Creeks as punishment for assisting the British in the Revolution. Some Upper Creek towns also joined with the Chickamauga Cherokees, but this was done in defiance of the Creek Confederacy. Tennesseans were mad at the Upper Creeks for almost capturing Nashville. It was explained to the Creek Confederacy’s leadership that the land theft was a “clerical mistake,” but they were promised that their other Sacred Lands, the Ocmulgee Bottoms, would be theirs forever. Within a generation, this was lost too.
From 1793 to 1838, what was to become Bartow County was officially part of the Cherokee Nation. What is now Gordon and Bartow Counties had by far, the largest Cherokee populations. What is now Bartow County had at least 1,200 Cherokee occupants in 1832. The most prestigious neighborhood in the new Cherokee Nation was on Spring Place Road in northern Bartow. Several fine Federal Style houses of Cherokee origin can still be seen today in this community.
Numerous survivors of the catastrophic Cherokee defeat at Etowah Cliffs (1793) across from Downtown Rome, GA, fled to the remote village of Pine Log, GA. Several of these refugees, or their sons, became important figures in Cherokee history. Most eventually moved to the area around Rome, GA in the early 1800s, but by then they had kindled the Cherokee renaissance.
Major Ridge (Ganundalegi) took refuge in Pine Log because his sister lived there. He married and started his family in Pine Log, but around 1801 moved to a new farm on Oothcalooga Creek, north of Adairsville. Major Ridge led the faction that signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1836. He was assassinated in 1839 in Oklahoma.
James Vann initially took refuge in Pine Log, but soon moved to Spring Place, where he began development of Diamond Hill Plantation.
John Ridge was born in Pine Log, but moved to the new plantation on Oothcalooga Creek. He always owned land and had a concubine in Pine Log. At times he represented the Pine Log District in the Cherokee National Assembly. In 1839 he was assassinated for signing the New Echota Treaty.
General Stand Watie was born in Pine Log, but as a child moved to Oothcalooga. During the Civil War he commanded the Cherokee Mounted Rifles. Along with the Creek Mounted Rifles, they were the last two Confederate units in the field.
Elias Boudinot was born in and grew up in Oothcalooga. He attended college in New England, but returned home to be the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix. In 1839 he was assassinated for signing the New Echota Treaty.
Sequoyah created his famous syllabary while living in Pine Log. He made his living by making silverware for wealthy Cherokees. Sequoyah and his wife were abducted by North Carolina Cherokees. Both were condemned to death for witchcraft. The North Carolina Cherokees were in the process of torturing them slowly to death, when they were rescued by the Georgia Cherokee Light Horse, led by John Ridge. Sequoyah then headed west, never to return.
Charles Hicks, Second Chief or Principal Chief during much of the 1820s, was a guiding force behind the planning of New Echota. He was born from a Tamatli (mixed Tama-Creek/Cherokee) mother and a Scotish trader father. The very learned man built his home atop a mesa in Pine Log. He died there in 1827. In 1911 Hicks log house and farm were purchased by writer Corra Mae Harris. In recent years the Hicks-Harris farm has been restored and is owned by Kennesaw State University. Charles Hicks eight letters to rising Principal Chief John Ross, contain what is considered by scholars to be the most reliable descriptions of Cherokee history. They differ significantly from what is being told tourists today.
Sallie Hughes, a Cherokee woman, developed the Sallie Hughes ferry. The Sallie Hughes Turnpike(eventually US 411) that connected the Etowah River with Tennessee, was named after her. Before the Trail of Tears, her home was near present day Cartersville. The State of Georgia bought her ferry as part of the Cherokee Removal. This ferry was valued at $10,000 in the 1830s – roughly equivalent to between $200,000 to $300,000 in today’s dollars.
Throughout the 1820s, Cherokee leaders and their attorneys fought the State of Georgia in courts in hope of thwarting efforts to evict the Cherokees from the state. The Cherokee’s position was that treaties between the United States and the Cherokee Nation could not be affected by laws passed unilaterally by United States Congress or the Georgia General Assembly. The State of Georgia’s position was that the Cherokees were a northern tribe, not indigenous to the state. Therefore, they could not be considered to be sovereign over any territory. Also, an agreement between the Federal government and Georgia in 1798 had promised Georgia that all Native Americans would be removed from the state after it ceded the territory that was to become Alabama and Mississippi. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the Cherokees.
Both the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the State of Georgia refused to obey the Supreme Court’s ruling. In 1832 Georgia dispatched surveyors to divide up what is now Bartow County into 40 acre “gold lots.” Gold miners and homesteaders began occupying lots they had won in the Cherokee land lottery, even as many Cherokees struggled to remain on their farmsteads.
In 1836, a faction of Cherokee leaders, led by Major Ridge, signed the Treaty of New Echota, without authorization of the elected Cherokee government. Congress approved the fraudulent treaty anyway. It ceded all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi and made provisions for the Cherokees to be relocated to the Indian Territory – now the State of Oklahoma.
In 1838, Georgia and the Federal government began forced removal of any Cherokee families who had neither applied for state citizenship nor moved to the Indian Territory on their own. Crude stockades were constructed to temporarily contain captured Cherokee families until they could be quickly relocated outside of the state.
By October of 1838, most Cherokees had been removed from what was to become Bartow County. Many Cherokee women, who were married to white men, stayed in the region, because they were not required to relocate. Other families took state citizenship and renounced membership in the Cherokee Nation. It is not clear what happened to the inhabitants of the Creek town of Euharlee. It kept its original Creek name and became one of the earliest settlements in what was then Cass County. This fact suggests that at least initially, some Creeks elected to remain after the Cherokee majority left.
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